(Moscow) Moscow claimed Sunday evening the victory of Vladimir Putin’s party in the elections organized in the territories annexed to Ukraine, with more than 70% of the votes, ballots considered “illegal” by Kyiv and its allies.
Russia’s Central Election Commission said Sunday evening that the Russian president’s United Russia party came out on top in these regional elections in the four territories annexed to Ukraine.
The President of the Electoral Commission, Ella Pamfilova, welcomed the elections which took place “dynamically, with few violations”.
With these elections spread over three days, from Friday to Sunday, Moscow is trying to legitimize its annexations in Ukraine by having the occupied territories vote in the east and south.
Despite strong condemnations from the West, Russia proclaimed in September 2022 the annexation of four Ukrainian territories that it only partially controls – Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk – following “referendums” not recognized by the International community.
The fighting is still raging there and the Ukrainian army has launched a counter-offensive.
In the four annexed Ukrainian regions, the occupation authorities have bent over backwards to present a semblance of normality, despite the ongoing fighting.
In the Donetsk region, voters cast ballots adorned with the Russian double-headed eagle, while in the Kherson region, Governor Vladimir Saldo declared a non-working Friday so that each citizen could “express their position”.
Muzzled opposition in Russia
The Russians also voted Sunday in these regional elections without suspense, in a context of muzzled opposition, where the voices critical of the Ukrainian conflict are repressed unceremoniously.
For more than a year and a half, thousands of Russians have in fact been sentenced, sometimes to heavy sentences, for protesting against the offensive in Ukraine.
And no real “outside the system” opposition is represented: the opponents are either in prison or in exile.
The outcome of these elections organized to appoint governors, regional deputies and municipal elected officials should therefore not cause any surprises.
The vote comes a few months before the presidential election scheduled for early 2024, which could consolidate Vladimir Putin in power until 2030.
In several Russian regions, where the influx of voters is traditionally the largest on Sunday, the ballot is also tainted by the conflict.
In Rostov-on-the-Don, a large city in southwestern Russia located not far from Ukraine and hit this week by a drone attack, two voters interviewed by AFP on Sunday near a polling station spontaneously cited this armed conflict as their main concern.
“Above all, we want to live in peace, us and our children,” said Nina Antonova, 40-year-old occupational protection specialist.
Only problem: war
“Everyone is preoccupied with only one problem: war. We don’t have any other problems,” assures Anatoli, an 84-year-old retiree.
In Moscow, outgoing mayor Sergei Sobyanin, a Vladimir Putin loyalist in office since 2010, omnipresent on television in recent days to inaugurate new regional train lines or renovated hospitals, was re-elected without difficulty.
“The winner is unequivocally already known,” declared Sunday evening an official of the central electoral commission, Nikolai Bulaïev, sending his congratulations to the councilor “for such a convincing victory”.
Muscovites met by AFP said they appreciated the modern turn taken by the Russian capital under the leadership of Mr. Sobyanin.
“Moscow is blooming before our eyes!” exclaims Roukhin Aliev, a 21-year-old student.
“We are only for him!” », says Olga, a 67-year-old retiree.
Several hundred kilometers southwest of Moscow, in the border regions of Ukraine, regularly targets of attacks from Kyiv, the security conditions for the organization of the vote are precarious.
The head of the Electoral Commission, Ella Pamfilova, has already announced that voting in the town of Chebekino, Belgorod region, has been “postponed due to a high alert level”.
The only notable political event: in southern Siberia, the Communist Party candidate, Valentin Konovalov, 35, is trying to be re-elected in the mountainous and sparsely populated region of Khakhassia. He is far ahead of his opponents, according to the official TASS agency.